Over the last couple of months our posts have tried to challenge your thinking and re-frame your responses to your cheater’s affair. All too often support forums and therapists focus on the relationship/marriage, and largely avoid encouraging the pursuit of personal agendas and goals that might result in one of the couple leaving the relationship. There is often a larger social agenda at play, where success is measured by your reconciliation, not your personal growth, welfare, and self-worth. Our focus is your own personal success and fulfillment after an affair has detonated your relationship, regardless of your post-affair relationship status.
We don’t see any success in encouraging someone to stay in a dysfunctional or abusive relationship. We don’t see any virtue in staying in a relationship where you do not have equal voice, equal rights to independence, and equal commitment to shared values. We don’t see courage in taking the easier path just because it’s easier, and we don’t see willing martyrdom and self-sacrifice at the altar of a cheater as a victory.
If our posts seem entirely opposed to Standing, they are. We do not support the wholesale sacrifice or suspension of your own self-interests in order to love a cheater through their affair (and there are usually some attendant abusive behaviors in a cheater in affair-mode, or affair-mode thinking). For this, we make no apology.
However, if they seem opposed to bilateral, and authentic reconciliation, they’re not. They are challenging you to see the difference between Standing, refocusing, and reconciling, and to see that you have other choices too. If they seem pro-cheating, they are not. They are highlighting issues of free will, power, and control in both the cheater and the faithful partner. If they seem hard on the faithful partner, we’ll take that one on the chin. We work with a lot of faithful partners whose thinking is muddled, self-effacing, and fearful - we understand because we’ve been there too. We believe that challenging this type of stuck thinking is important to help people make the best choices for themselves.
We don’t have a stance that is pro-reconciliation, or pro-divorce, or even pro-marriage. We are advocates of self-esteem, self-worth, education, reasoned choice, personal goals, and self-empowerment. We want you to make choices that are reasoned, clear, and authentic, and we shall never suggest that saving your marriage and then remaining unhappily in it is ‘success’.
The Affair Survival Thinking-Kit
This post summarizes a number of IHG posts to help you survive your cheater’s affair and dare you to want more for yourself than just survival. (The link to each expanded post is included under each section.)
Traditional advice for healing from an affair would have you rushing off to therapy to learn new, relationship-saving ways to communicate with your cheater. You would be kindly and sagely advised to create an environment that enables your cheater to safely express how you failed to meet their needs. You would be expertly guided through identifying the vulnerabilities in your relationship, in order to immunize it against another affair.
Well, put your co-pay back in your wallet and prepare for some unconventional thinking:
- Your lack of Collaborative Dialogue Communication skills v2.0 is not why your partner cheated.
- Not all relationships should be saved, including possibly your own.
- In the aftermath of their affair, it should be your cheater creating a safe and secure environment for you.
- We are each responsible for our own happiness.
- Your relationship wasn’t vulnerable to an affair, your partner was.
- Anyone is capable of cheating under the right circumstances.
- An affair doesn’t seek to resolve relationship issues and is not the effect of an imperfect relationship.
- What is this magical cheating-immunity vaccine held by therapists, and why haven’t we seen it on the news or at least in an infomercial?!
Rather than wasting money and tossing your self-esteem into the insatiable maw of a cheater’s ‘needs’, understand:
- You are not broken, you are hurt and being hurt isn’t fatal.
- You are not responsible for your cheater’s choices, they are.
- You did not cause their affair, they chose it.
Authenticity and self-focus are the primary catalysts for healing and thriving after your partner’s affair.
Expanded Post: The Guilt Trip to Therapy: Did You Cause the Affair?
2. Accept Their Right to Cheat
Before you reach for the smelling salts, no, infidelity is not an ethical or just choice. However, understand that your world view is not the gold standard to which everyone else’s ideals, values and choices should be held.
Accept that others are at liberty to make choices without your approval. Refusing to accept your cheater’s choices keeps you mired in your own pain.
Expanded Post: Accepting Their Right to Cheat
3. Yield Control
Disengage from the affair drama and make whatever Herculean efforts you need to prevent yourself from demanding/commenting/accusing/guilting. The likelihood the affair will last is incredibly small, but it has to burn itself out: Any flapping around by you trying to put the fire out will do nothing but fan the flames.
Expanded Post: End the Affair Strategies and the Backfire Effect
4. What’s Love Got To Do With It?
- Stop telling them you love them. Understand it as an attempt to manipulate them, or to trump or negate any other potential choices.
- Stop trying to fix or manage them. It’s not love to fix someone to your standards and for your own well-being.
- Let go. They are not chattel even if they are your personal cash-cow.
- Don’t martyr yourself to ‘loving’ someone who has depreciating value in your life.
- Appearing indispensable by lovingly cleaning up their mess serves only to highlight your control freakery.
- Don’t stay in an abusive, manipulative, or unequal relationship and excuse it as love.
- ‘Loving them through it’ can cause them to ricochet further into the affair.
Expanded Post: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
5. Your Cheater’s Needs
Your cheater may try to justify their affair by listing your faults. It may sound valid on the surface, and your therapist might even suggest that your cheater’s unmet needs are the cause of the affair.
Before you buy into a concept that gives your cheater license to blame you for their affair and a list of ways in which you must improve to keep them happy, consider if your cheater was meeting all of your needs. If unmet needs are the causes of affairs, why didn’t you cheat too?
Expanded Post: Their Needs, Your Faults
6. Act in Your Own Self-Interest and Don’t Reward Bad Behavior
You win far more than you lose by acting in your own best interests. Self-interest is NOT selfishness - and even if you think it is, indulge a little anyway.
Don’t make changes in yourself hoping that it will lure your cheater back to you. Change only what you want to change for yourself. Rushing around to make yourself and life at home perfect while your partner is in affair is self-effacing and counter-productive: Life’s good for a cheater when they also get rewarded at home for their affair. Stop acting with intent to elicit a reaction in your cheater.
Instead of rewarding bad behavior, choose instead to respond to positive and changed behavior.
Expanded Post: The Power of Mayonnaise
7. Be Prepared to Leave
Underneath therapy buzz words like ‘boundaries’ and ‘consequences’ is the decision to stay or go. If you’re not mentally prepared to exit a dysfunctional relationship, you confer your personal power to your cheater and you’re risking living a life that reduces you.
A post-affair relationship requires the renegotiation of terms. It demands honest disclosure of each others’ goals, so reality may inform each individual’s right to leave or desire to stay.
Expanded Post: Heroes and Villains
8. Relearn How to Be You
Be authentic, be true to who you are and who you striving to be. Don’t act under pressure to satisfy familial, religious, or societal expectations after the affair. Reconnect with yourself and start doing things that bring you happiness.
Decide your dreams for yourself, and only act in ways that move you closer to them. If you don’t have dreams for yourself without your cheater, get some. Get strong, get independent, and make a life for yourself that you would want to live, with or without them.
Be open to discovering that being single is more exhilarating, more validating, and more satisfying than tying yourself to someone whose choices demean, disrespect and hurt you.
Live life with gusto: Be interesting. Laugh. Thrive. Grow. You are more than your relationship. Your happiness is not contingent on your cheater.
Expanded Post: Switching Focus Post Affair
9. Find Momentum
Imagine your vision of your life without your cheater, and move towards it. Don’t glance back - it will upset and derail you. Keep moving forward at a pace that energizes and excites you.
A cheater who wants to reconcile with you must first resolve their issues and then make a case for themselves, demonstrating why it’s in your interests to again consider them as a partner.
Expanded Post: The Post Affair Life
10. Don’t Let Nonsense Stand as Fact
Be authentic. If your cheater tries to rewrite history, assert the facts. If they try to obfuscate reality, trust your own memories and voice the truth.
Don’t be cowed into accepting the blame for your cheater’s affair in fear that they will leave. If they leave it will be because they want to, not because you refused to be the scapegoat for their affair.
Expanded Post: Rewriting History
11. Don’t Fear Change
Change can empower you to reach for who you want to be, without impediment. It can release you from old patterns and fears and can signal the start of a freer, happier life, where you laugh loudly, speak confidently, and believe in your value in the world as an individual.
Expanded Post: Affairs, Farmville, and the Sunk Cost Fallacy
The antidote to an affair is not inaction, desperation, or neediness. The balm for the pain of an affair is to carve out a life for yourself that brings you happiness, regardless of your relationship status.
If your relationship detonated, refocus your energy away from the affair. Emerge from it whole, by creating a strong, independent, aware, and self-reliant you. Anything else is simply cheating yourself.
“Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dare to dream, dare to expect more: Don’t cheat yourself too.